Authors: Steven Brust
Phoenix sinks into decay
Haughty dragon yearns to slay.
Lyorn growls and lowers horn
Tiassa dreams and plots are born.
Hawk looks down from lofty flight
Dzur stalks and blends with night.
Issola strikes from courtly bow
Tsalmoth maintains though none knows how.
Vallista rends and then rebuilds
Jhereg feeds on others’ kills.
Quiet iorich won’t forget
Sly chreotha weaves his net.
Yendi coils and strikes, unseen
Orca circles, hard and lean.
Frightened teckla hides in grass
Jhegaala shifts as moments pass.
Athyra rules minds’ interplay
Phoenix rises from ashes gray.
The Adventures of Vlad Taltos
THE BOOK OF JHEREG
THE BOOK OF TALTOS
THE BOOK OF ATHYRA
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
The Book of Taltos
copyright © 2002 by Steven Brust.
copyright © 1988 by Steven K. Z. Brust.
copyright © 1990 by Steven Brust.
Cover art by Kinuko Y. Craft.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
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Ace trade paperback edition / January 2002
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Brust, Steven, 1955–
The book of Taltos / Steven Brust.
1. Fantasy fiction, American. I. Brust, Steven, 1955—Taltos. II. Title.
PS3552.R84 B66 2002
One of the questions I’m most often asked is: “In what order would you recommend reading these books?” Unfortunately, I’m just exactly the wrong guy to ask. I made every effort to write them so they could be read in any order. I am aware that, in some measure at least, I have failed (I certainly wouldn’t recommend starting with
for example), but the fact that I was trying makes me incapable of giving an answer.
Many people whose opinion I respect believe publication order is best; this volume reflects that belief. For those who want to read the books in chronological order, it would go like this:
Taltos, Yendi, Dragon, Jhereg, Teckla, Phoenix, Athyra, Orca, Issola.
The choice, I daresay, is yours. In any case, I hope you enjoy them.
The Cycle: Dragon, dzur, and chreotha; athyra, hawk, and phoenix; teckla and jhereg.
They danced before my eyes. The Dragaeran Empire, its population divided into seventeen Great Houses, each with its animal representation, seemed to unfold in my hands. Here was the Empire of Dragaerans, and here was I, the Easterner, the outsider.
It wouldn’t get any easier.
The eyes of no gods upon me, I began.
OME TWO HUNDRED MILES
to the north and east of Adrilankha there lies a mountain, shaped as if by the hand of a megalomaniacal sculptor into the form of a crouching grey dzur.
You’ve seen it, I’m sure, in thousands of paintings and psiprints from hundreds of angles, so you know as well as I that the illusion of the great cat is as perfect as artifice or nature could make it. What is most interesting is the left ear. It is fully as feline as the other, but is known to have been fabricated. We have our suspicions about the whole place, but never mind that; we’re
about the left ear.
It is here, say the legends, that Sethra Lavode, the Enchantress, the Dark Lady of Dzur Mountain, sits like a great spider in the center of an evil web, hoping to snare the true-hearted hero. Exactly why she would wish to do this the legends don’t make clear; as is their right, of course.
I sat in the center of my own evil web, jiggled a strand, and caused it to bring forth more particulars about mountain, tower, and lady. It seemed likely that I was going to have to visit the place, webs being the fragile things that they are.
Of such things are legends made.
I was going over a couple of letters I’d received. One was from a human girl named Szandi, thanking me for a wonderful evening. On reflection, I decided it had been pretty nice at that. I made a mental note to write back and ask if she’d be free sometime next week. The other was from one of my employees, asking if a certain customer could have an extension on a loan he’d taken out to cover gambling losses to another of my employees. I was thinking about this and drumming my fingertips when I heard Kragar clear his throat. Loiosh, my familiar, flew off his coat rack and landed on my shoulder, hissing at Kragar.
“I wish he’d stop doing that, boss,”
said Loiosh psionically.
“Me, too, Loiosh.”
I said to Kragar, “How long have you been sitting there?”
His lean, seven-foot-tall Dragaeran frame was slouched in the chair opposite me. For once, he was not looking smug. I wondered what was bothering him, but didn’t ask. If it was any of my business, he’d tell me. I said, “Do you remember a Chreotha named Fyhnov? He wants to extend his loan from Machan, and I don’t know—”
“There’s a problem, Vlad.”
I blinked. “Tell me about it.”